The increasing success of the Nigerian music industry is arguably the best thing that has happened to Nigeria in the last few years. The Afrobeats scene has never been as busy as it is right now. Recently, Nigerian singer, songwriter and record producer Tems made headlines for being the first female Nigerian artist to win the “Best International Act” at the 2022 BET Awards. What’s more? She also took home the award for “Best Collaboration” thanks to her performance on Wizkid’s Essence. Fireboy also made the whole nation proud by becoming the first African artiste to perform on the BET mainstage, and the first Afrobeats artiste to perform at Wembley stadium.
With the successes of individual acts and the Nigerian music industry as a whole, various artists’ fanbases are being stirred up both positively and negatively. Burna Boy, Davido, and Wizkid being some of the largest acts in the country, have some of the most prominent fanbases. Examples of popular fanbases in the Nigerian music scene are the Outsiders (Burna Boy fans), the 30 Billion Gang or 30BG (Davido fans), Wizkid FC or Wizkid Fan Club (Wizkid fans), Marlians (Naira Marley fans), and Ravers (Rema fans). These fanbases are extremely active in the Nigerian Twitter scene.
Fanbases are known for their rigorous, hardcore and unwavering support for their various “faves.” You often see them creating groups, and more popularly, fan pages where they update the community on the artist’s latest projects and achievements, and encourage one another to keep streaming, downloading, and buying the artist’s records. Fanbases are usually very wholesome spaces where people can come together to connect based on a shared love for an artiste. But in recent times we see some fanbases becoming epitomes of hate and toxicity.
It is no news that as quick as fans are to celebrate an artiste they love, they are also very quick to tear down an artiste they do not like, support, or, in extreme cases, hate. We see this behaviour among the fanbases of top acts who are involved in intense competition. Fanbases of these competing acts often look at things from a narrow point of view and usually only see things from their own perspectives. Fans who engage in toxic behaviour often think that by putting down people in favour of their ‘fave’, they are supporting them and doing some good. This narrow-mindedness can be attributed to the blinding effect of the love fans have for artistes and their music. This brings us to what is known as ‘Stan Culture’.
Around the world “Stan” culture has become quite popular, finding its way to almost every corner of the globe. The word is derived from Eminem’s hit song in the year 2000 Stan, which was about an extremely unhinged and overzealous fan. Stan culture is highly entertaining but it is as infectious as it is rabid. It can be obtrusive and, in some cases, slightly disturbing. While stan culture has its positive sides; such as the memorable manner through which Buju fans helped him secure a feature from Zlatan, Stan culture also has a devastatingly ugly side.
Ranging from fights on social media, typically infused with slurs and occasional bigotry, dozens of reports of physical fights between opposing fans, and fans cyberbullying just to enforce that an artiste is the “greatest,” Stan culture can get dark in some extreme cases. We see rigged polls on social media, with stans blindly supporting their favourite artistes against the truth and common sense on various occasions.
Psychologists have described these obsessive behaviours as ‘celebrity worship syndrome’ a type of parasocial relationship that occurs when the admiration of celebrities shift into an obsessive fascination and preoccupation. Parasocial relationships are one-sided dynamics in which energy, interest and time are extended towards the object of obsession whilst they (commonly a celebrity) remain ignorant of the existence of the other. Though it’s not a clinically recognized condition, it’s been described as an obsessive-addictive disorder.
Last year BNXN fka Buja received serious backlash from a number of fans when tweets he had made years prior were found online. In these tweets, he referenced Wizkid, Davido, Mr Eazi, Yemi Alade, Olamide, Timaya, and Rema in ways many fans found disrespectful. More recently, a range of old tweets by popular Nigerian filmmaker and YouTuber Korty which expressed feelings which were not complimentary of Wizkid earned her insults and death threats. For tweets which were expressed whilst a teenager, it seemed a bit over the top.
Having an artiste you love and are a proud supporter of is amazing. But when that love starts to cloud your judgement, makes you blind to any of their wrongdoings, or makes you tear down another human being just to reiterate how much you love them, and how amazing they are, then you need to take a step back to question if that is what it truly means to be a fan. Being a fan shouldn’t be about hate especially when the competing artistes themselves have no bad blood among themselves. At the just-concluded Afronation music festival, Wizkid took to the stage to express his love for his colleagues in the industry, in which he mentioned Burna Boy and Davido. “I want to tell you tonight, I got love for Burna Boy, I got love for Davido, I got love for every-fucking-body man,” he said.
While there is an increasing toxicity within fanbases in the Nigerian music industry, it is important to note that not all members of these fanbases are toxic and there are still a lot of levelheaded people within these fanbases who are there for the positive side of things like uplifting their faves, and a sense of community. It is necessary to have an abundance mindset. Just because someone else is succeeding does not mean that other people can’t. Afrobeats is finally getting the recognition it deserves and fanbases played a huge role in getting the industry here. Imagine all the possibilities if we all unite towards a common goal instead of trying to tackle someone from an opposing fanbase at every turn.